A Holy Patriarch | ca. 670–ca. 725–726 • Pre-Congregation Memorial: February 7
We know little about St. Richard, a pilgrim who, St. Bede says, ruled the old British kingdom of Wessex from roughly 688 to 725. He is thought to be the grandson of Queen St. Seaxburha and the brother-in-law of St. Boniface, and his name probably wasn’t Richard but Hlothere. We also know he was married and had three children, all of whom became saints: Walburga, Wunibald, and Willibald.
After a 37-year reign, King Richard abdicated in order to better pursue his goal of being a saint. He took his two sons with him on pilgrimage to Rome, which St. Willibald’s biography says was the boys’ idea. Having made his way across Europe and through roughly a third of Italy, he stopped in Lucca. There he developed a terrible fever and died after several days.
Richard’s sons had him buried in the Church of San Frediano, which also holds the incorrupt St. Zita. During the Middle Ages his tomb saw great veneration by pilgrims. Many came from Britain as well as Germany, since some of his relics had been sent to Eichst.tt, where St. Willibald was bishop. Scads of miracles occurred at his tomb.
Even to this day, pilgrims praying before his impressive sarcophagus know that they are in the presence of a spiritual powerhouse.
Why St. Richard deserves our attention and devotion
A man who abandoned worldly power to pursue sanctity and who raised three saints is no slouch. His devotion left an indelible impression on his offspring, and they brought many souls to Christ as a result.
Lord, help us convert our hearts. Make us ever more perfect disciples, like St. Richard. Enable us to be shining lights for those in our care, and let them carry that light into the world and thereby bring others into your everlasting embrace of love.
This is an excerpt from Saint Who?: 39 Holy Unknowns by Brian O’Neel.